MESA, Ariz. - After a delayed start to his spring, A's reliever Sean Doolittle hopes he can hit the accelerator leading up to Opening Night.
The lefty turned in a 1-2-3 inning Tuesday against Colorado in his Cactus League debut. Having been held back from game action as a precaution, due to two seasons of shoulder problems, Doolittle said trainers have given him the green light to proceed without restrictions.
"I was told I'm normal now - take the training wheels completely off," Doolittle said after a 4-3 loss to the Rockies.
He added that he thinks five or six outings in Arizona, with the possibility of a couple more in the Bay Bridge Series, should have him ready for Opening Night.
"I feel like my delivery is relatively low maintenance, and I do enough work on the side," Doolittle said. "Mechanically, I'll be ready."
All three outs came through the air - two fly outs and a liner to left. Doolittle threw just one off-speed pitch, a changeup, but said he'll weave the pitch in more as he gets more outings under his belt.
With Santiago Casilla having made his spring debut Sunday, all of the A's front-line relievers now have at least one game under their belt. Ryan Madson and John Axford each threw scoreless innings Tuesday, a good sign for Oakland as both veterans experienced a bit of turbulence in early outings.
STOCK FALLING: Daniel Coulombe has a chance to join Doolittle as a second lefty in the bullpen, but he's struggled to this point in exhibitions. Coulombe was charged with all four runs as the Rockies rallied from a 3-0 deficit in the top of the ninth to steal one from the A's. He also issued two walks in 1 1/3 innings.
"He's had a tough spring. especially to left-handers," Melvin acknowledged. "We expect him to get the left-handers out, and not only have they been hitting him, they've been doing some damage too. So he's gotta tighten that up a little bit."
Six spots in the bullpen are locked down with Axford, Casilla, Doolittle, Ryan Dull, Liam Hendriks and Madson. In all likelihood the A's would want another lefty, whether it's Coulombe or perhaps someone with long-relief potential such as Ross Detwiler. If the A's carry just four outfielders, they could actually take eight relievers if they desire, which would allow them to keep Raul Alcantara, who is out of minor league options.
NOTEWORTHY: Sean Manaea went 3 2/3 innings and held the Rockies off the board despite giving up seven hits. He was displeased with his slider and fastball command, and it took some good defense - and head-scratching Rockies base running - to help him escape the first unscored upon.
Third baseman Matt Chapman cut down a runner at home with men on the corners and one out. Then first baseman Yonder Alonso made a heads-up play to catch Trevor Story in a rundown after Story unwisely rounded third and broke for home on Stephen Cardello's infield single.
ODDS AND ENDS: Colorado's tying and go-ahead runs scored against Kyle Finnegan, who relieved Coulombe in the ninth. Finnegan had done a nice job coming over from minor league camp and nailing down a victory earlier this spring. … With the A's off Wednesday, Jharel Cotton will pitch in a Triple-A game against the Cubs.